- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2002

Sometime this month, President Bush will travel to communist China. The exact date of his departure is classified for obvious security reasons. His departure will be cloaked in secrecy, a quasi-triumph for Osama bin Laden and allies. If, however, a real understanding between the United States and the People's Republic of China (PRC) can be achieved, the time may come when an American president's travels can once more be openly reported.

But such understanding necessitates a significant change in outlook about the United States by President Jiang Zemin, 75, who will step down this year, and by his nominated successor, Hu Jintao, 60, PRC vice president. Mr. Jiang's nine-year incumbency was marked by weird and ridiculous misperceptions and conspiracy theories by the Chinese government of the democratic West, particularly of the United States.

There is no better authority for that statement than Chen You-Wei, the former political counselor of the PRC Embassy in Washington from 1988 to 1992 and before that a longtime commentator on foreign affairs for the People's Daily, the official Beijing newspaper. He is presently research associate at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. Chen's findings are embodied in his book, "The Inside Stories of China-U.S. Diplomacy after Tiananmen." While it is written in Chinese, the book's first chapter has been translated and published as an article in the February issue of the Journal of Contemporary China. Mr. Chen lists 10 examples of "errors of analysis regarding Sino-U.S. relations and the world situation committed by Beijing at this most precarious time." The examples seem to indicate that the Chinese leadership lives in some kind of fantasy land.

1. The key to understanding the PRC's international behavior in the last two decades are the bloody events of Tiananmen Square on June 3-4, 1989, when the army, under the orders of Deng Xiaoping turned a peaceful protest movement into a massacre. (It was at the Tiananmen Gate 40 years earlier, on Oct. 1, 1949, that Mao Tse-tung proclaimed the People's Republic of China.) Mr. Chen writes:

"China's leaders believed that foreign forces, more than domestic ones, were behind Tiananmen, particularly the Western strategy of implementing a 'peaceful evolution' in China. The U.S. policy towards China was to topple the Chinese government and socialist system."

2. China's leaders believed that the first Bush administration and Congress were "essentially performing a 'good cop, bad cop' routine," hoping to draw the Soviet Union into a containment alliance against China.

3. Since it was the United States which was responsible for worsening Sino-U.S. relations, it was up to Washington to take the first step to repair those relations. China could afford to wait for the United States to move.

4. China was "reluctant" to abandon the strategy of playing the United States and Soviet Union against each other even though they knew that such a policy in the Gorbachev era was unreal.

5. On the eve of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Mr. Jiang still hoped to play the Soviet card against the United States. He traveled to Moscow in May 1990 to "embellish the 'eternal friendship' between the two communist countries. "He completely misread the situation," writes Mr. Chen, "and the collapse of the Soviet Union not long afterwards made Jiang's words look foolish."

6. China placed great hopes in the Moscow August, 1991 coup, which seemed to promise a restoration of the party dictatorship. A plane was readied to fly one of the party's major leaders, Liu Huaqing, to Moscow to lend support to the coup plotters but the rebellion fizzled and, writes Mr. Chen, "Beijing's hopes came to nothing."

7. With the fall of the Soviet Union, China wanted to "take part" in the German reunification negotiations and, writes Mr. Chen, "use Germany's sudden rise to contain the United States. But Germany refused to hold such talks, much to the disappointment of Beijing."

8. The Chinese leadership believed that entry of the United States into the Gulf War would benefit China because the war would drag on for months or years and eventually "take a turn for the worse." America's real motive in invading Iraq, the Chinese leadership believed, was to control Middle East oil and thereby exercise control over Germany and Japan.

9. America's Gulf War victory proved to the Chinese leaders that the United States was seeking global hegemony and that, therefore, China would become America's principal adversary.

10. Since China's leaders believed that "safeguarding socialism" was far more important than introducing reforms, the primary task for China was "to combat the 'peaceful evolution' plot of the West and make the United States its number one enemy."

"From 1989 to 1991," writes Mr. Chen, "China's most characteristic assessment of the world situation was that regardless of what had transpired in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, it would refuse to recognize the bankruptcy of communism, the defeat of socialism and the end of communist autocracy."

The author of the article lived in the belly of the beast for more than a half century. If the misperceptions he has described still dominate the thinking of the communist leaders, then Mr. Bush has a formidable task ahead of him, more suited perhaps to a psychiatrist than to a head of state.

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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